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Depp, Oprah Go Disney, Cars 2 Moved Up To 2011

Johnny Depp will appear in three upcoming Disney movies, including reprising his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in a fourth PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN film. He will also star as the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton's 3-D adaptation of ALICE IN WONDERLAND and play Tonto in an upcoming LONE RANGER film.

In a star-studded showcase for exhibitors, media and insiders on Wednesday at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, Walt Disney Studios gave sneak peeks and doled out announcements, interspersed with live entertainment, all centered around their upcoming live action and animation film slate.

Hosted by Dick Cook, Chairman of the Walt Disney Studios, the showcase was broad, and included early looks at TRON sequel TR2N, videogame adaptation THE PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME, Pixar's next feature UP and more.

In a change from an earlier announcement in April, CARS 2 has been pushed up a year, and will open summer 2011. Cook also announced a series of animated shorts surrounding the CARS characters called "Cars Toons" They will premiere on the Disney Channel and in theaters up until the release of the new feature. The shorts previewed on Wednesday -- "Mater's Tall Tales" -- focused on lovable tow truck Mater and his hero fantasies as a firefighter, surgeon and matador.

Earlier this week, Disney announced HANNAH MONTANA THE MOVIE will now open April 10, 2009. Star Miley Cyrus and her father Billy Ray Cyrus appeared at Wednesday's event, with a performance of a song from the film by Miley.

Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter, wearing his trademark Hawaiian shirt affixed with characters from BOLT, introduced the film then screened in 3-D.

Cook also announced Oprah Winfrey will lend her voice to the princess's mother Eudora in next year's 2D THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG.

Also showcased was a look at Robert Zemeckis' new performance-capture film starring Jim Carrey, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, coming November 2009. "I wanted to do the film how I thought Charles Dickens would have imagined it," Zemeckis said. "Being a fan of time travel, this is the greatest time travel story ever told and the perfect story for this technology."

Disney created a performance-capture studio and division, ImageMovers Digital, just for their use. Carrey plays Ebenezer Scrooge at four different ages, as well as the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.

Disney has a slate of 16 live action and animated films scheduled to be released in 3-D, with five planned for 2009, the most of any studio.

Tim Burton's next project for Disney, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, will feature Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. Depp appeared as Captain Jack Sparrow at the end of the showcase, when Cook also confirmed Disney will release a LONE RANGER film, starring Depp as Tonto. "Any time we can get this guy to wear a funny hat, it's good for Disney," Cook said.

Ken Ralston is currently on set in London as the senior visual effects supervisor for ALICE, with Sony Pictures Imageworks on board for a substantial amount of the work. David Schaub is the animation supervisor and Sean Phillips and Carey Villegas are visual effects supervisors for Imageworks.

Disney Nature, the first new label in 60 years, will release its first documentary on Earth Day 2009 (April 22), called EARTH. It follows families of polar bears, elephants and humpback whales for a year.

Cook also confirmed that a third NATIONAL TREASURE is in development, with Nicolas Cage to star and Jerry Bruckheimer to produce. Bruckheimer, Disney and Cage are collaborating first on two other films, THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE and G FORCE, which is due next summer and follows a group of top secret government agents, who are genetically altered guinea pigs.

--By News Editor Annemarie Moody

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